The study, which looked at health centre expansion efforts completed between 1994 and 2000, found that quality indicators improved at health centres even as they served more chronically ill, near-elderly, and uninsured patients. At the same time, researchers found no disparities by race/ethnicity or insurance status in the delivery of preventive services.

"These findings dramatically demonstrate that affordable health care is worth the investment at the federal level," said Dan Hawkins, Vice President for Policy at the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC).

"Health care does not have to cost a lot to be effective, and health centres are proving that fact every day in America. More and more Americans are staying healthier and out of hospitals because they have a health care home in their community."

"In light of prior work demonstrating the unmet health care needs of uninsured people, the visit rates of the uninsured to health centres point to these centres' role in providing access to the neediest Americans, who otherwise would go without care or receive substandard care," the study said.

Even as the researchers conclude that the Presidential Initiative to expand health centres through 2006 will further improve access and likely reduce national health care disparities, they also note that success depends in part on expansion of the primary care workforce and insurance coverage.; Source: National Association of Community Health Centers